Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Dusky Dolphins

enjoying one another



orca taking a breath

orca pair

ready to dive

spern whale tail

the pod

time for dinner

whale watching

The guidebook went into ecstasy about the wonderful setting where Kaikoura is located. Unfortunately we would have needed a helicopter to truly appreciate it. The town is located at the base of a small peninsula and has a long row of mountains behind it. In the winter when they are snow capped, it is especially picturesque judging by the photographs posted all over town. The name of the game here is viewing animals. Since we had already given the bird viewing a try, we went for the whale watching ship.

Sperm whales are a specialty of the area and we’ve never seen one face to face. These are among the largest whales and have no teeth. Rather they pile on the calories by gulping large mouthfuls of water and straining krill and other small sea creatures through baleen, a substance similar to that which comprises our hair and fingernails. The tour promised a 80% refund if we didn’t see a whale. Guess they were pretty confident.

Tour company staff were quite ominous warning us repeatedly about sea sickness. They told us to stop at a nearby chemist (pharmacy) to buy strong remedies and sold ginger pills in their shop. They talked about it so much I began to wonder if we were spending big bucks to make ourselves ill. There were a few sea swells, but all they did was interfere with our photography. It’s touch to take photos of animals who pop out of the water randomly while you are bobbing up and down. We were confined to the interior of the boat as it drove out to sea with great speed. As soon as the whale was located, the engines idled ad we were allowed on deck to help the crew look for the whale spouts.

Sperm whales spend most of their time under the water eating. They come up for air after 45 minutes of feeding. After catching their breaths they round their backs and go back down for more grub. This back arching motion enabled our guide to predict when the tail would appear and actually enabled me to get a picture of one. Another came up a short time later and we were ready to catch that tail shot by ourselves.

Then we saw a group of orcas. They are also known as killer whales and their distinct black fin rising out of the water makes them easy to spot. Occasionally, they got close enough to photograph, but then they would dive and we’d wonder where they’d appear next. It felt as if they were playing with us.

Finally we saw the Dusky Dolphin who were jumping out of the water and spinning as if they were in some mad circus. Then the guide told us why. Dolphins are promiscuous creatures who mate with whomever comes along multiple times a day. Leaping up in the air and spinning is a form of foreplay. They never told us that when we were on our school field trips to the dolphin show at the aquarium.

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